Symposium 2016: Two classic books, Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird are no longer permitted reading for students in a county in Virginia. These classics and others have had a history of being banned in schools and libraries across the country. Should these books and others be banned, and who should have the say-so in such decisions?

Owatonna, MN Correspondent- Three issues are at play here: free speech, the rights of individual school districts to teach children the way they think is best, and political correctness. It has always been my belief that freedom of expression is the most important Constitutional right in America. Everything else stems from that core right. I also believe that local government should be the most important level of government. Each locality should have the freedom to govern in the best interest of their constituents. Political correctness is the 800-pound gorilla in the room that casts a cloud over race relations because far too many people are trying to legislate morality by controlling what words can, can’t, should, or shouldn’t be spoken in public.

In this case, the two classic books should not be banned. No books should ever be banned anywhere, for any reason. That’s actually a moot point because technology makes it virtually impossible to bar anyone from reading anything. A school can “ban” a book from its curriculum and remove it from its library, but any student can easily gain access to that book on his own time. Since numerous other classic novels exist that have been used in school curriculums for generations, it’s not as if a school district only has the option to use the two books in question or not have any classic books studied in class. Other books of equal stature and importance in literature can be taught, and students will be no worse off by not reading Twain’s or Lee’s classics.

School districts should always make the decision about what to teach their students. Excluding a book from a course is a necessary choice because all books cannot possibly be taught and read in a single class. School boards should not, however, remove books from its library just because the politically correct crowd is worried about the school district’s public image. The use of the N-word was a fact of life in American history. Pretending it didn’t exist will not do anything to solve America’s constant struggle with

racism.

Prescott Valley, AZ Correspondent- Neither one of these books nor other classics should be banned, nor should one person have the right to have a final say in the decision concerning whether or not these books are removed from the classroom or library shelves. Though not yet officially banned, the complaint for removal of the books came from a Virginia mother who spoke to the school board about the racial slurs and defensive wording in the books, and added that the nation was divided as it is, likely inferring that these books only added more fuel to the fire with issues of race.

Though the n-word is used often in both books, the hypocritical nature of the banning is such that this particular racial slur and references to it are used quite regularly and in full spirit by people of color, either towards one another or as a group.  Whether it comes through general, everyday conversation, rap musicians, rap music lyrics, movies, locker room banter, or other sources, the word is used quite regularly with no thoughts of banning or censoring its use.   Rap music compact discs (cds) may sport parental warning labels, and movies may have R ratings, but they aren’t removed from the public square because of the use of profound profanity and the n-word.

Both of these books are based on anti-racial themes and the way the content is presented, younger and older readers are given valuable information that enables them to relate to racial issues and how they have been dealt with and resolved.  The books are not only classic and endearing, but they are instructional and provide lessons to be learned. They should not be swept away to satisfy the needs of those who bow to political correctness, perceive fear or simply want to shield their child’s learning situation. Students should be repelled by the words, but they need to be exposed to the realities of the historical content of the books and examine, discuss, and understand what truths the authors related.

Of course students should be protected from pornography and obscene materials, but classic literature that serves an instructive purpose and provides valuable historical lessons concerning racial issues should remain in classrooms and on public school library book shelves.

Students don’t need to be pampered and protected under the guise of political correctness   or shielded from the fear of damaging their sensitivities. They need to ponder and discover what has been conveyed through both of these books and how the content can be used to broaden their views on racial inequality and how it can be eliminated.  Banning these books only serves the purposes of those who want to remove anything and everything that even hints of racial offensiveness as they see it. A dangerous precedent will be set if book banning becomes a regular occurrence.

Gastonia, NS Correspondent- Banning books is among the stupidest things schools and communities do.  Making something forbidden only makes it more attractive to youth, as our current issues with youth drinking and smoking should show.  I’d be in favor of setting up a committee of a priest, a rabbi, two schoolteachers, an English professor, a literature professor and three members of the general public.  If you can get that dog’s breakfast of viewpoints to agree on banning a book, then so be it. If the decision is not unanimous, then the book stays.  As to the two books in question, which are taboo largely because of their use of the “N” word, I doubt the people screeching for the ban have ever read the books, or they’d understand the context and put a sock in it.

Myrtle Beach, SC Correspondent- When we start restricting “art” is when society dies in my opinion. These are works from another time and day, an older society. Why WOULDN’T we want kids reading these books? They are historical. You can’t erase history by burning books and not talking about it. It’s still history.

Wait until kids are a little older and mature to let them read these books. After reading them open a discussion about society. What has changed, and why? We can’t keep raising kids who don’t understand history. We have to stop using “slavery” as a bad word, and blocking kids from learning the history because it offends people. Of course it offends people! But we have to learn about history in order not to repeat it. Period. Stop banning books, stop stifling creativity. Stop making more Kanye’s  and Kims and start making more Motzarts and Poe’s!

 

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